Posted By: August 13, 2013

 Order chaplain labels PSNI chief’s remarks ‘an utter disgrace’


Rev Mervyn Gibson [ Orange Order Chaplain]

 Mark Rainey. News Letter ( Belfast). Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A senior member of the Orange Order has labelled weekend remarks by Matt Baggott “an utter disgrace”.

Rev Mervyn Gibson yesterday voiced his anger after the Chief Constable contrasted violent scenes in Belfast’s Royal Avenue with people socialising nearby, claiming it was like “a battle between the good and the bad”.

The violence erupted on Friday evening as several hundred loyalist protestors gathered in Royal Avenue to oppose a republican parade past the spot where two UDR soldiers were murdered by the IRA in 1988.

On Saturday, Mr Baggott said: “Last night we had a street with intense violence, we had another street next door with people enjoying themselves. It’s like a battle between the good and the bad, isn’t it? I can assure you as far as we are concerned, we are doing everything we can to make sure that good works, because young people deserve a better future in this place than what was offered last night by the mindless anarchy on the street.”

But Rev Gibson told the News Letter he was angered by Mr Baggott’s comments because he interpreted them as “the good people out having meals around the place and that all the bad people were in Royal Avenue”.

The Grand Orange Chaplain added: “That is an utter disgrace. I know many good people who were in Royal Avenue simply to peacefully protest. Many people who had lost members of the security forces who were murdered.”

Rev Gibson has also taken issue with the Chief Constable’s comment that he has “little sympathy” for anyone who gets hurt during a riot situation when they have chosen to be there.

Mr Baggott had been asked to comment on claims that Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland, along with his wife Sonia and daughter Sarah, were assaulted by police in Belfast on Friday evening.

After pointing out that loyalist rioters had used scaffolding poles and metal gratings to attack officers, the Chief Constable said: “You know something, if you are in the middle of a riot and you choose to be there, I have little sympathy.”

Fifty-six officers and several protestors were injured as rioting broke out ahead of the parade’s arrival in the city centre.

Rev Gibson said the violence was not justified – but he again highlighted increasing tensions between the loyalist community in Belfast and the PSNI.

“The remarks of the Chief Constable aren’t helping. I believe he said he had no sympathy for anybody involved or anybody at riots,” said Rev Gibson. “I have frequently been there to liaise with people trying to stop them, to liaise with the police so there are no further injuries, and now he’s saying he has no sympathy, yet some of his colleagues have asked me to go out and do that.

“I have said this repeatedly but it’s been misinterpreted on many occasions – I totally condemn the violence, there is no justification for it. There is a ‘but’ however. If you are going to understand something, and deal with it sensibly in the hope of a permanent resolution, then that ‘but’ is about anger. That ‘but’ is about the growing resentment against the PSNI in loyalist areas, and I think that needs to stop and I think there needs to be a strategy to work at that.”

Rev Gibson has also rejected Sinn Fein accusations that the Orange Order is linked with paramilitaries orchestrating protest violence in Belfast.

Commenting on claims the Order was colluding with the UVF, Rev Gibson said: “[Martin] McGuinness said it on Saturday, Gerry Kelly said it on Saturday. My first reaction was, ‘I won’t dignify it with a comment’, but everybody seems to be talking about it.

“It’s absolute nonsense. With regard to the protest regarding the Ligoniel lodges, the DUP are involved, the Ulster Unionists are involved, the Ulster Political Research Group, the PUP, the bands, all the loyal orders in Belfast and the local residents. It was a united front of unionism.”

The Orange chaplain added: “What McGuinness is saying and what Kelly is saying is being said for their own objectives. We heard the Assistant Chief Constable this morning (Monday) saying that there was no paramilitary involvement in organising the [Friday] riots – that they just happened in Royal Avenue.”